The Triumphant Return of Renata Adler’s Speedboat

speedboat You must read this book now. Right now. This very second (or on 19 March  when it is finally re-released).

I can offer no other reason for this book being out of print for so long than to say it has been one cruel cosmic joke. A couple of years ago, the National Book Critics Circle surveyed a group of authors and asked the question, which book would they like to see back in print? According to NBCC, many suggestions were offered but the resounding response was for Adler’s Speedboat. Board member, Mark Athitakis, described the book,

The narrator…appears to be coming apart, stalked by a sense of panic and a feeling that the world has become disordered. So the story feels like it’s come apart too—telephone conversations get tangled, the story leaps wildly from past to present, recollections of violence are muted while mundane party chatter becomes absurdly, wildly comic.

I once taught this to a small class of undergrads in the only class I have ever taught. I brought in a short excerpt for them to read. The class was titled, “The Unconventional,” and I hoped Speedboat would be an ideal example to show humor, plot construction, and character development. They sometimes were a quiet bunch but they adored this book and were let down when I told them that it was out of print (although, I’m sure it can be picked up from a used bookseller). It is a book that I constantly recommend and I am happy that the wonderful NYRB is putting this back into print.

Ed Park, the keeper of all books almost forgotten or underappreciated, once said of Speedboat,

[T]his is a book I’ve bought repeatedly and given away, in the hopes of expanding the cult.

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